Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Human rights in Western Sahara

Delivered in Plenary - 27th October 2005

Mr President

1975 to 1991 was a period of bloody conflict in Western Sahara between Morocco and Polisario, ending with a UN-brokered ceasefire, which called for a referendum for independence, yet to happen I have to say, monitored by MINURSO. Seventy-six countries now recognise the Sahrawi Democratic Republic.

In 2001 James Baker proposed a five-year period of autonomy within Morocco before holding the referendum, but Polisario rejected it, particularly on the issue of who would be allowed to vote. So, legally, the 1991 UN Settlement Plan remains in place. In the meantime Morocco has continued its repression, including the recent alarming allegations of arbitrary arrests, ill treatment of prisoners in custody and even allegations of torture.

Algeria has now come into a large windfall profit from the high oil revenues it is enjoying and is therefore in a position to rearm Polisario. That is extremely dangerous, because there could be a resurgence of hostilities. We must avoid hostilities and stop war breaking out again at all costs.